Pre Story Notes:
So the next issue to think about when armed, is if one has what it takes to kill another man. In a lot of fiction, you'll find that people kill each other all the time. But the thing is that many of the writers don't realize how hard it actually is for a sane individual to make the decision to pull the trigger.
Military training expresses a lot of emphasis in the soldiers being able to dehumanize a target so they can do their job. The articles from Killology explain this in finer detail and explain just how hard and painful it is to kill another man. To summarize, humans, like most animals, are hardwired not to kill their own species. It takes a kind of mental justification strong enough to make a person seem no longer human to fool the brain and bypass that little hard wiring. Exceptions exist, but most humans would have a hard time killing their own kind.
So what does it take to make a man kill?
Let's think about this as we return you to your regularly scheduled fiction…
It's powerful stuff.
The body produces this chemical for times when it needs to push past every normal physical limit and turn the person in question into a momentary super-human. Indeed, there are accounts of mothers and fathers being able to lift cars off their children when they've been trapped underneath them.
Adrenaline stimulates the heart, and dulls the sense of pain, making the body capable of tolerating the strain of overreaching its limits and taking damage, so long as it can get out of a situation alive. It can turn even the most portly of fellows into an Olympic sprinter for short periods at the expense of lasting damage.
I discovered a little about this as I lost ground to a roof-bounding Sailor Mars. After running a disjointed path through the area, I had pretty much spent myself. So as I made a direct line sprint between buildings right back towards the shrine, Hikawa, I knew it was the adrenaline giving me the boost to move on.
The underbrush along the side of the hill slowed me down as I ran into it and started trying to scramble my way up. It slowed me down enough when combined with the dark that I was forced to think about what I was doing, and what was going on.
If I remembered the situation right, Zoicite, that asshole, had just gone after Gramps for one of the crystal things whose name I was too addled to remember at the moment. He would then try to turn 'Grump' himself into one of their elite monster warriors.
What bloody good timing I had. Just when Sailor Mars NEEDED to be there, I managed to drag her away. Still, something about the scenario wasn't right. And I was beginning to trust my instincts in the matter of things being off. I couldn't expect myself to remember every detail perfectly all the time, but I knew something wasn't going according to the predefined sequence events.
Luckily, in all my doubling back previously, I hadn't actually gone a straight-line distance very far from the shrine. Probably a tenth of a mile at the most, given we were able to hear the scream. That meant the response time for Sailor Mars wasn't very long. Maybe forty-five seconds tops.
I on the other hand, still struggling up through what had to be the most choked side of the hill I could have possibly picked, took a bit longer. On the plus side, the frustration helped to keep me both infuriated, but also forced me to think through my anger. Once I was up onto the shrine grounds again, I decided to approach quietly. Maybe blast that damned dark general from behind if I was lucky…
I kept to the shadows, and quickly ducked behind a large tree. I saw him over on the corner near the entrance. Sandy blond hair, gray uniform… That's about all I could make out. But yes, Zoicite.
I double-checked my knowledge on him. Head-on would be a stupid method of attack. The guy had a power set similar in function to Ayeka or Ryoko. He could teleport, throw dark force attacks, generate a crystal sword from thin air… Not to mention he had no sense of fair play in a fight.
What do you know, NEITHER DO I!
If he weren't an arrogant ASSHAT, we'd probably get along, barring the whole, Evil, part….
The thing about these Dark Generals is that while they could generate force fields to protect themselves from just about any perceived attack a normal human could launch, they seemed to use them rarely. And physically… Well, Nephrite got impaled to death. Physical attack… Makoto managed to bruise Zoicite with a good punch. Physical attack again. So based on the evidence, use of small arms WOULD work.
IF I could get in a good clean first strike…
Sailor Mars in the mean time was busy running, dodging, and pleading at her transformed grandfather. How long she would last without some help? Questionable... And the way things were looking probably my fault. Didn't some form of help usually arrive just in the nick of time thanks to some freaky coincidence around here?
Maybe that's my job today…
I slipped away to the right, flanking around behind the shrine building planning my move. Best chance for maximum damage would be to get as close as possible without being seen. I don't know how well Zoicite could regenerate from an injury, but the more damage I did on the first hit, the better my chances were.
I corrected my line of thought. I was now definitely siding with Rei, and anything I could do to help her would probably help me.
There was laughing from the opposite side of the building. That asshole really was enjoying his job to the fullest. Keep laughing asshole. I've read The List; you're in violation.
As I came around the far side, I slowed to a steady creep, reducing what little sound I'd been making. To some extent, it was a good thing Sailor Mars was making so much noise there were leaves here and there.
Must be fall…
Creeping around the last corner and moving through the shadows, I sighted my target again. This time, back to me. The Mossberg came up to my shoulder, sliding into place the same way I had trained with an M-16. I reminded myself quickly as I inched my way towards my opponent that this weapon was going to have more kick, so I pulled in just a little more tightly.
Sight picture on the target?
Iron sights, center mass with Zoicite's backside. Fancy headshots are for snipers and video games.
I crept a little closer before bracing with my left leg. Did I mention I fire left handed?
I let my eyes shift focus, the two sets of bead sights on the Mossberg becoming blurs as I focused on the target, then he became a blur as I shifted focus to the area beyond, where Rei was still running circles.
Wait for it…
Breathing, trigger squeeze.
I relaxed into the shot, exhaling quietly, and squeezed the trigger.
I said squeezed the trigger…
Nothing was happening! I felt a surge of near panic as I hesitated and seized up. Then I realized the problem, the trigger wasn't moving. It wasn't giving.
I HAD THE FUCKING SAFETY ON!
I WAS RUNNING AROUND READY TO USE THE WEAPON AND I'D NEVER BOTHERED TO TAKE IT OFF SAFE!
Focus Pinky! Safety off!
Military training is good for keeping you centered in tense situations. As long as you reminded yourself to think outside of automatic actions, you'd be okay. I lowered the weapon with a quick snap motion, taking my hand off the pistol grip to slap the safety mechanism with a metallic click, and quickly retrained it.
And saw Zoicite looking my way curiously.
Either he saw my reckless motion, or heard the safety.
Our eyes met briefly as I went over my sight picture and breathing, staring down the barrel. And we both locked in hesitation.
Zoicite was an inhuman animal, and I was here to exterminate.
The muzzle flashed blindingly in the relative dark, and the sound was like a clap of thunder to my ears as the shotgun kicked into my shoulder harder than I had expected. At the same time, I had seen Zoicite's eyes widen as my finger had drawn back. And I knew even as my eyes recovered from the flash, that I had seen him vanish in a burst of cherry blossoms, teleporting out of my line of fire. The human brain can process a snapshot visual as small as one, two-hundredth of a second, if not smaller. And I knew I missed, even as the spray of lead blasted the bark off the tree on the opposite side of the shrine's small courtyard. Zoicite was infinitely lucky I had hesitated.
It was definitely a showstopper, as both Sailor Mars, and the monster version of her grandfather stumbled to a halt to see who had the thunder stick. They could wait though. As at the time, the only primitive thought going through my head was to reacquire my target and blast it.
Which was a bit of a problem, because even though I had the training for firearms, reacting to teleporting opponents was not part of the routine. It was enough to break me out of my funk, forcing me to think about the teleport.
Where does a teleporter go in a fight?
The same place I would go if I could teleport.
I started my turn a little before the voice began.
"You actually managed to sneak-"
And Zoicite took a face full of telescoping butt-stock before he could finish his sentence. That's the problem with these baddies. Too much lip-service… If you're going to teleport into backstabbing range, stab first, then talk.
After the first hit, he was still stumbling when I took a step and came back the other direction, catching him in the shoulder as I pressed the attack. Remember what I said about that fight with Motoko? How I had learned that I had to keep my momentum going? This was the reason why.
My third attack was a smash, directly into the abdomen of my adversary, who let out a gasp in the dark as I continued to move forward. The entire point of bayonet was attack, attack, attack… Keep moving forward. Never pause; never back away. Don't think; just destroy the enemy until they stopped moving. It was just as brutal as groundwork. And it was probably a good thing that it was dark, my opponent was one of the greatest assholes in all of fiction, and that I was past the mental breaking point. Because if I had been in my right mind right about now, I probably wouldn't have been this animalistic.
As the blond-haired freak keeled over from the stomach blow, I curled the stock in and swing upwards, connecting with his jaw to send him sprawling. It was really too bad I didn't have an actual bayonet on the rifle-er… Shotgun… Or I would have already inflicted mortal wounds. If only I had some duct tape, then I could strap Motoko's dagger to the end of the shotgun and it would work long enough to do the job.
No functional bayonet on the weapon though. And after three blows, my enemy was no longer standing. I couldn't swipe at him without jointing him on the ground for a pounding. Instead, I reseated my grip and pumped the Mossberg.
Man, that double click never sounded so satisfying in all my life…
Zoicite teleported as fast as he could, and the ground erupted in a shower of dirt and cherry blossoms as the second round of buckshot intended for him missed.
I stood catching my breath for a second, the momentum of my assault halted. He wouldn't try the same angle of attack twice after paying for his mistake with that kind of damage. No way he was that stupid. Stupid, yes... But not THAT stupid…
My mind replayed the action and I recalled seeing something shiny go flying on the second blow. I'd find it in a moment. Where was my enemy?
"My FACE!" Zoicite snapped from above. He'd be one to try the flying advantage. "How dare you-"
Mossy clicked its teeth as I turned, chambering another round. Flying won't help you, bastard.
If I could pick a music track, as I'm prone to do for action sequences, I would probably have started up something produced by Shawn McPhearson. Probably a vicious-sounding piece to fit the brutality of this fight. Perhaps the Devil May Cry Three soundtrack…
Zoicite's eyes bugged out as I trained my weapon. He understood what the sound meant now.
Mossy barked. He teleported just in time. Three away, three in the tube...
THE FLINCH IN YOUR EYE CALLS YOUR BLUFF.
I pumped my newly named weapon, chambering my next shot, quickly moving towards a tree. The teleporter was going to wise up, and the open was a bad-
FEEL FREE TO DIE WHEN YOU'VE HAD ENOUGH.
I dove out of the way of the dark force blast as it cut a path through the spot I'd been in. It had come from the corner of my vision on the right. I lost one of the Hinata slippers as I did so.
While I was on the ground, I slipped a shell off the stock of the Mossberg and rolled towards the nearest tree. Once I was there, I shoved the round into the tube. Zoicite didn't know how many times I could shoot. I wasn't going to let him get a count.
USELESS CAUSE IS BREAKING YOUR BACK.
"Come out come out wherever you are!" he called, voice falsetto. He was pissed.
I rolled towards the voice, propping up painfully on my elbows and fired, splintering a tree trunk and hearing a clipped yelp. Damn!
I popped two more rounds into the tube as his retaliatory attack blasted the tree I was behind. Two more rounds on the rail, then it was the shoulder.
YOUR LIFE WILL END WHEN YOU ATTACK.
I heard it this time, the swish of a teleport, quieter than Ryoko's, but it was audible. He was going for a clear line of fire. I centered on the sound I heard, and pumped the Mossberg. Something moved in the dark, and I fired on it, pumping again as I pushed to my feet. Then I fired another blast to cover my movement as I moved to keep the tree between us.
MAKE YOUR MOVE!
MAKE YOUR STAND!
MAKE THE WIN!
My covering shot did its job in delaying him; I was safe when the tree took the blow.
LIKE YOU CAN!
I plucked the last two rounds from the rail mount and shoved them into the tube as I ducked away from the splinters. I was quickly falling into a pattern so many games of Halo taught gamers to do with the shotgun. Load a round at every chance.
SEE THE WAR!
SEE ME RULE!
I heard the teleport high to the left this time, but I was still behind my cover. I leaned out, pumping and firing at a gray shadow in a gap above the canopy. The shot went wild and shattered a branch.
"HOW THE-?!" he cut off and I heard the teleport shift down into the trees towards the front area of the shrine.
SEE THE MIRROR YOU'LL SEE A FOOL!
Why wasn't Zoicite using a shield?
TO TAKE ME OUT YOU MUST FIGHT LIKE A MAN!
"ZOI!" he shouted again. And I ducked back with plenty of time to spare as my tree received another pummeling of dark force. It was probably time to move. I noted the delay between his shout, and the attack, not to mention how slow it was.
The other thing I noticed was how quiet he'd become. In retrospect, I don't think the 'general' had ever experienced what I was throwing at him. Well, his opponent WAS nothing but a bunch of Japanese schoolgirls lead by a whiny brat. Combine that with that power high he was on and his fighting tactics and experience were medieval at best.
YOU'VE YET TO PROVE THAT YOU CAN!
I moved from my cover, shuffling for another tree as I fired in the direction of his last attack. As I kept moving in the direction of travel, I almost missed the glint as something shiny slammed into the tree around head height.
"FUCK!" That would have come too close to skewering me if I had ducked back. Bastard was catching on and trying new tricks. I dove for the next tree just in case he had more than one to throw.
SEE YOUR MIGHT IT COMPARES TO SOMETHING!
"The next one won't miss!" Zoicite's voice snarled and wavered as I rolled my back to the tree. "Give up human!"
Was he scared? I know I was… Scared, angry, doped up on enough adrenaline, to make an elephant tap dance… Tired. It was all just one objective now. Take him out. If my attacks had sapped his confidence that well, I had better initiative than I thought. I had to keep it. Maybe it was keeping him off center enough to try using a shield.
I heard him teleport again as I completely reloaded the tube on Mossy and pumped. He was flanking. I rolled to stay out of sight; something jabbed my stomach as I did so.
THAT IS IF SOMETHING IS NOTHING!
I rolled out from my tree, staying flat on my stomach as I looked for my target. Something snapped a motion and I saw him clearly enough as he hurled another bad shiny at me. It sounded like an arrow the way it flew, as it zipped high. Two of them actually, as one hit a tree back behind me and the first embedded where my head would be if I were standing up.
I lined up my sight and fired. Zoicite barely ducked away, but I heard a pained yelp as the tree splintered from my inside shot.
TIME TO FIGURE
TIME TO SIN!
I pumped again and fired at the tree where I saw his head duck, and was rewarded by satisfying splinters flying in every direction. As he teleported several times frantically, I rolled back into place, jabbed again in the stomach. Stopping to correct this, I pulled a small, shiny, golf-ball sized object out from under me.
YOUR TIME'S DONE
WHEN YOU BEGIN!
I almost pocketed it when I realized what it was. That must have been what he dropped when I clubbed his face. That gave me an idea.
"Hey Zoicite!" I snapped, rolling into position, sticking the small 'good shiny' out where it could be seen. "Did you drop this?"
LIVE FOR SUFFER!
LIVE FOR, REVENGE!
I heard him swear, tracked on the sound, and fired on gray.
NOW YOUR LIFE'S COME TO AN END!
I heard a pained yell, and the sound of something like glass hitting cement. Mossy pumped, and fired on movement. Pumped again, fired… Pumped, fired.
TASTE THE BLOOD!
TASTE YOUR FATE!
I emptied the tube as fast as I could, peppering the spot with lead until I was empty, sending splinters up from trees and dirt that took bits of buckshot. Eat lead you insufferable bastard! Eat lead and die! Die and go to hell! Do not pass Go! Do not collect two hundred dollars!
SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE!
WITH YOUR HATE!
While I waited for any signs of movement, I slowly used my trigger hand to pull another shell off the shoulder harness, and slid it into the tube. Then a second… Did I kill him?
The sound of a teleport high and to the left, made me almost swear, but the panicked huffing I could hear was satisfying. Pushing to my feet, I saw the general floating over the front of the shrine's main building now, holding a shoulder and dripping whatever passed for blood.
YOUR LAST BREATH,
YOUR LAST STANCE!
"Monster Jiiji!" Zoicite commanded near frantically. "KILL HIM! GET THE CRYSTAL! I WILL NOT RETURN EMPTY HANDED LOOKING LIKE THIS!!!"
THE LAST OF ALL IN YOUR COMMAND!
"Fuck," I swore, suddenly remembering the other members of this little party. It must have been the ferocity of the firefight or something. Despite the length of the exchange between myself and that BASTARD… Neither Sailor Mars, nor her monster-fied grandfather had moved. Did they just sit there the whole time and watch the exchange?
"Jiiji…" Grampa Ojiiji-oni-san growled, turning towards me. God that was a convoluted nickname… I pumped Mossy, causing the creature to hesitate.
"Mars," I began, looking unsteadily at the creature-creation. "If you don't stop him, I will…"
That seemed to snap HER out of the funk as she looked between the two of us.
"NOW…" I instructed more urgently, raising my weapon. In the corner of my vision, Zoicite simply watched.
"But he's…" she began.
"JIIJI!" the beast snarled and charged.
"ON A RAMPAGE!" I snarled, snapping to aim.
The force blast struck me in the side, and I instantly knew I'd made the mistake of taking my eyes off the biggest threat. I was expecting far worse though… Pain, blinding searing pain. Or maybe to feel my bones crushed. Strangely, it just felt like getting picked up and thrown. Maybe Zoicite was weakened after that fight.
Still, it's not the fall that hurts; it's the sudden stop at the end. I felt my shoulder pop, nearly dislocating as I collided with a tree and went spinning out across the ground, my shotgun skittering away out of reach. Along with the 'good shiny' I'd been holding. Oh, that was going to hurt later…
Mars finally went on the attack, racing towards me while hurling a Fire Soul attack up at Zoicite. Maybe watching how I fought had given the girl something resembling a clue. At the same time, Zoicite teleported clear, reappearing to grab the crystal.
OJiiji-oni-ah fuck it… Dark Gramps… Or maybe Grumps... Yeah. Grumps.
Grumps turned to intercept, knowing full well that the Girl was loath to attack him now.
"Jiiji…" God damn, those googly eyes it made screwed the effect up.
"Grampa wake up!" she pleaded.
"So weak," Zoicite huffed, bending down to snatch up the crystal.
Hell if you get to keep it.
"I barely hit him, and he up and dies so easily," he laughed. "I can't believe he did this much damage."
Dead? I'm not dead? But if that's what he wanted to believe… I kept on the ground. Obviously he couldn't see me breathing in the dark. But now what? Play possum until he leaves? And let him get away with a victory like this?
Oh! The very thought had me seeing red all over again, a lot of red. I was going to kill the bastard, right here, right now. My hand slowly went to the hip pack, gripping the zipper on it and pulling quietly.
"And now that I've got what I want," the asshole laughed. "I'm going to ENJOY this before I go back."
Keep monologuing asshole, you'll get what's coming to you.
"Monster Jiiji," he commanded, sounding quite demented. "Kill Sailor Mars."
"Jiiji," it Grumps growled, turning towards Mars. As it did so, I moved my hand a little faster, grasping something round, hard, and cold, and pulled it free.
Mars was backpedaling quickly as Grumps herded her back towards the front steps to the shrine. She would not fight that thing. It was her grampa. And it would KILL her.
"What are you going to do MARS?" the general coughed, trying to get his arrogant tone back. "You seem determined not to fight, but if you don't fight you'll die. Decisions, decisions."
Okay, one more time… HEAVE.
Zoicite visibly jumped as my arms moved into motion, he even limped back a step as I stood up and glared.
"Impossible!" he choked, looking absolutely terrified all of a sudden. "You should be dead!"
What the hell possessed him to think he'd killed me? I'm not sure, but I was certain HE was going to die as I calmly pulled the secondary safety clip off the killing tool in my hand.
"What about it?" I asked inserting my middle finger into the pull ring, trying to get him to monologue a little more. Last thing I wanted was for him to scream at me while firing more force blasts.
"WHO ARE YOU!?" He was getting frantic now as I twisted and pulled. "WHAT ARE YOU!? HOW DO YOU DO THAT?!"
There was satisfying give as I checked for the fastest way to get the fuck out of dodge. It would have to be the steps.
"WHY CAN'T I FEEL YOUR LIFE FORCE?!"
Even screwed up as I was, and curious as I was, it was too easy.
"Because I'm DEATH." I snarked.
I let fly my little bundle of pyrotechnic joy, straight at his face.
Zoicite ducked as the thing sailed past him, jumping back a little at the same time as he watched it sail through the air.
I didn't stop to think. This spot, was suddenly a very bad place to be. Grumps seemed to realize it too…
Zoicite rounded on me, his hand coming up to fire a blast but found me sprinting as hard as I could right at a confused Mars.
I bulldozed Mars at top speed and threw us both at the stairs. Out of the corner of my vision, I saw Zoicite's look of confusion as he turned back to face the object I'd thrown.
For those of you who've never thrown an M-67 Fragmentation Grenade, it actually produces three, distinctly unique sounds.
The first sound can best be described as a metallic 'tink' of a cheap metal spoon being tapped against a small piece of sheet metal. The sound it makes as the fuse handle pops off the device.
The second sound, is an eerie, almost freaky whistling buzz sound when it flies through the air. I'm unsure what causes it, but I'm not about to investigate closer. The sound was enough to Make Grumps run.
The third, and most satisfying sound, is the sound of detonation. Grenades do not simply 'BOOM' as you might expect. If you listen to enough of them, you come to realize you can hear two distinct sounds very close together. The first being the ignition of the primer blasting cap as the fuse runs out, which sounds like a high 'pop' or 'shop' sound… And the detonation of the main charge of high explosive in a loud 'whump' or 'whoomp'...
A combined sound that is most distinctly described as 'SHWHOOMP!'
Even with the pain of rolling down several steps, I couldn't help but smile at the sound of high explosive as it turned the casing of a softball sized metal sphere into a hail of molten metal fragments.
I heard other sounds as my every sense seized the moment. Wooden breaking sounds, zipping sounds, ricochets, and glass sounds. The sounds of death flying everywhere.
Tumbling painfully to a halt with a shocked Sailor Senshi pinning me down, I huffed as I turned my head to look at the stairs. Still here, still in one piece.
Allowing Mars to quickly crawl off me, I forced my body up and dashed back up the stairs.
The first thing I saw, was the crystal.
I scooped it up instantly. Now where was Zoicite- oh THERE he was…
Jogging over to collect Mossy, I turned and moved towards the general, preparing to finish the job if he wasn't dead already.
I frowned as I saw his chest rise and fall despite the dark. Damn, he really refused to die after taking a shotgun blast and a grenade to the face. But he was a mess. Shoulder all but destroyed now that I got a look at it, and his body was flayed all over, his uniform ruined, blood oozing out of one eye. I can't deny feeling just a touch of sympathy for the creep. He looked like hell.
"I will," he started to cough as he saw me walk up, "Kill you for this…"
There was no redemption for this asshole. He was a monster to the end. So there was only one option.
"No," I began, aiming the shotgun at his face. "You won't..."